Literature, it fails us now

Dale Peck body-slams cheap, decayed postmodernism:

…But as I puzzled my way through this and the rest of Moody’s books, I found myself looking not for the place in their execution or conception where they went wrong, but rather for something even prior and more primary: the wrong turn in our culture that led to Moody’s status as one of the anointed ones of his — okay, our — generation. In my view, the wrong turn starts around the time Stephen Dedalus goes to college in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and echoes all the way through Don DeLillo’s ponderously self-important rendering of Bobby Thompson’s shot heard round the world in the opening chapter of Underworld. Moody’s badness is a little less inexplicable if you look at him as the lowest common denominator of a generation of writers — and readers: they, too, bear some responsibility for the condition of fiction — who have long since forgotten what the modernist and postmodernist assaults on linearity were actually about, and as such have lost the ability to tell the difference between ambiguity and inscrutability, ambition and bombast; of writers who are taken at face value when they are being ironic and who are deemed ironic when they are telling it straight — assuming, of course, that they themselves know the difference. Assuming, I should add, that they actually have a subject.

He’s right even about writers I like.

16 thoughts on “Literature, it fails us now

  1. Yup. Postmodernism was so much better when it was a hand-crafted by master artisans and sold for top dollar in luxury boutiques. Sure, applying industrial economies of scale may have brought the price of “literary fiction” down so that ordinary people can afford to enjoy postmodernism too, but it’s leeched whatever joie de vivre could have been found in it in the first place.
    The other major genre forms aren’t any better. Trust me.


  2. you know what my favorite thing about peopel who hate “postmodernism” or “hysterical realism” or whatever is, is they are usually the people who read the shit out of it. but at least all the hate makes me feel better for failing to understand thomas pynchon.


      1. yyyyyyyyyep. i think dale peck is right about the good ones – they are doing what they are doing (which is annoying) to point out problems that are going on with our dumb society.
        that said, o don delillo….


  3. oh man now i feel so dumb about liking underworld
    i think probably because i didn’t ever go to college and never took literary criticism, i feel like i should listen to people who seem to know what they are talking about. but i’ve spent ten minutes pondering whether delillo’s books are stupid? and i think that yeah, the last one, “falling man” i think it was called–i think that one was pretty dumb. but i am just not seeing why ratner’s star or white noise or americana are stupid.
    still though now i feel like maybe i just don’t know how stupid he really is. ugh, *smart people*, they make me feel so stupid


    1. Re: oh man now i feel so dumb about liking underworld
      Well, as I said, I think the guy is right about a lot of things even when I like the writers or books involved. I like a few of Delillo’s books, I’m a Pynchon lover, and DFW is a huge favorite.
      What I don’t like is the way this style of writing has progressed (declined) into a gooey mess where words don’t matter and the reader ends up wearing the Emperor’s dirty laundry. Peck delivers a lot of collateral damage on the way that’s unnecessary. But funny.


  4. I agree with so much of this. That being said, I don’t actually give a shit about what anyone thinks about what I read or don’t read. Losing the ability to read anything other than graphic novels for over half a year really changed my perspective. I guess I have the same attitude that generally covers my taste in music and film as well – there’s so much great stuff out there, I’m not going to stress out about what I should or shouldn’t indulge in if you know where to look, and if you know your tastes. I also don’t stress out about what people think of my choices because seriously, not being able to read more than a paragraph at a time sucks way more than having people think you’re a doughhead for reading anything in particular.


  5. The Future Is Now
    Everyone should watch for my forthcoming
    DYSTOPIAN?? novel, where the
    post-anti-hero is Polemarch
    Sokal von Godwin, from the planet Rhizomonomikon.
    (Working title: By Love Possessed.)


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